New attempt to end paper's 'name and shame' campaign

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The Independent Online

Child protection groups and offenders' organisations are to meet with the News of the World this week in a bid to convince the paper to stop its controversial campaign to "name and shame" child sex offenders.

Child protection groups and offenders' organisations are to meet with the News of the World this week in a bid to convince the paper to stop its controversial campaign to "name and shame" child sex offenders.

The photographs and details of another 34 paedophiles were printed today in the paper as it continued to fulfill its pledge to identify Britain's 110,000 convicted sex offenders.

The paper also asked readers to sign a petition calling on Home Secretary Jack Straw to introduce new legislation giving the public the right to see a register of convicted paedophiles.

But the petition was launched on the day that senior probation officers warned that paedophiles are changing address, altering their appearance and breaking all contact with the probation service since the name and shame campaign began.

The Association of Chief Officers of Probation said it had collected evidence of convicted child sex offenders going "underground" after they were threatened with violence.

Among the signatories to the call to bring in "Sarah's Law" - which would be similar to Megan's Law in the United States, named after paedophile victim Megan Kanka - were the parents of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne.

Michael and Sara Payne called for offenders to get longer sentences. Mr Payne said: "It's no good to take a child's life and then get out in eight years."

His wife appealed to people not take the law into their own hands: "Anyone who decides on vigilante action - you are hurting the campaign more. You are teaching kids that violence is OK, and it's not."

More pressure to introduce a "Sarah's Law" was piled on the Government as relatives of murdered and abused children met in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Garden to back the campaign.

But the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro), the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Diana Lamplugh of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - whose estate agent daughter disappeared 14 years ago - will meet with senior executives from the newspaper, including editor Rebekah Wade, on Tuesday to ask them to call off the campaign to publicly identify paedophiles.

A Nacro spokeswoman said they were hoping to convince the paper that the way they were trying to protect children would do more damage than good.

She said longer sentences for paedophiles, preventing them from being released while still a threat, was the answer. A "Sarah's Law" would be counterproductive, driving paedophiles underground and making it harder to keep track of them, she added.

Representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation (Acop) may also attend the meeting.

Acop has complained in writing to the News of the World's over its "misjudged" campaign, a spokesman said.

In the letter, which has been passed to the Press Complaints Commission, Acop complained that the newspaper has hindered its statutory work to supervise offenders by driving them underground, risks identifying innocent relatives of offenders, many of whom are victims, and encourages violence.

The News of the World today defended its campaign to "name and shame" paedophiles and its call for new legislation giving the public the right to see registers of child sex offenders in their area.

A spokesman said: "We are ready and very willing to meet these important organisations. We will of course listen with the greatest care to everything they have to say. At the same time, we will clearly explain our position and restate if necessary our defined objectives."

The News of the World believes everybody has the right to know the identity and whereabouts of a convicted child sex offender living in their area, he said.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said that existing laws allow schools, local authorities and parents to be notified if offenders who pose a risk are released in their area.

Mr Boateng, writing in the Observer, said that the decision to name offenders should only be taken by the police and probation services and not by a newspaper.

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